This weekend ASFF selects five new films – four features and one documentary – that all set out to explore the human condition. Studying such elements as violence, sexuality, the breakdown of the psyche and addiction to drugs, each film is packed with intellect and intrigue.
A glossy and exquisitely shot historical drama, theatre director Josie Rourke makes her feature debut with this story of Mary Stuart and the power struggle with her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Impressive female leads Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie play Mary and Elizabeth, surrounded by a cast that includes Martin Compston, Simon Russell Beale and Adrian Lester. History purists may be annoyed that Mary and Elizabeth get to meet, though.
M. Night Shyamalan, that lover of the cinematic twist, returns with a fusion of two earlier films – Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016). Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their Unbreakable characters, two men who believe they have super-abilities, while James McAvoy returns as Split’s multiple personality sufferer, acting out 23 different characters, for a story that pits all three together in a psychiatric institution in Philadelphia.
Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet play real-life father and son, David and Nic Sheff, in this harrowing bio from Belgium director Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown). Based on two memoirs written by the Sheffs, it follows the nightmarish cycle of addiction, rehab and relapse as David tries to get the Meth-addicted Nic free from drugs. Amy Ryan and Kaitlyn Dever co-star in what is a tough but tender film.
Loosely inspired by real events, writer-director Reinaldo Marcus Green marks his feature debut with a story about a fatal incident of police brutality. Set in Brooklyn, the film follows three different people (Hamilton star Anthony Ramos, John David Washington, and Kelvin Harrison Jr.) to examine how the repercussions of a street-corner shooting effect them. With an innovative structure, as the story is passed from one character to the next, it’s a unique look at an all-too-common tragedy.
Filmmaker Marcus Lindeen returns to an infamous 1970s experiment, when a group of volunteers – five men and six women – from different ethnic backgrounds were put on a craft, the Acali, in the Atlantic, to study the violence, aggression and sexuality inherent in human nature. Reuniting with six of the survivors for a full-scale replica of the journey, the film mixes in fresh interviews with archive footage of what was described as “one of the strangest group experiments of all time”.
All films released on 18 January.
Lead image: Still from Monsters and Men.